Alger Family Farm
Tammy Alger’s aspiration to raise naturally fed livestock came from a desire to feed their large family healthy food. Alger Family Farm has now grown into a sought after direct marketing meat business in the Miller, Mo., area.
“When we started eating organic the options were slim and far between,” Alger said. “We started 20 years ago before mainstream supermarkets had organics.”
On the 55-acre farm they have cattle, sheep and poultry. Alger raises Katahdin and Dorper cross sheep because they exhibit more natural parasite resistance.
Alger gauges a sheep’s parasite load by evaluating the redness around their eyes. A bright red eyelid and areas around the eye suggests the animal has minimal parasite problems. As the eyelids become paler in color the more of a parasite load the animal is carrying.
To control the parasites in her livestock Alger uses intensive grazing as her most important tool. By frequently moving livestock from one paddock to another and not revisiting the paddock for an extended period of time she can break the parasitic lifecycle.
Alger also uses a mix of black walnut tea made from black walnut hulls and garlic barrier, a concentrated garlic extract. Both are known for their natural parasite control properties. She administers the tea with a syringe daily until parasites are under control.
Twice a year Alger will dump whole black walnuts into the cattle’s water as a natural dewormer.
Alger uses strict culling practices to minimize the chance for health problems. She culls animals that require more inputs as compared to the rest of the herd.
“The ultimate goal is to have stock maintain their body condition on pastures and not be prone to parasite issues,” Alger said.
Koehn’s Grassfed, LLC
Rick and Joyce Koehn from Adair, Okla., started 5 years ago with a diversified grass-fed operation. The family is in the business of meat and eggs providing grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured broilers and laying hens.
Rick Koehn credits healthy soil as the key for keeping their animals healthy. He said that if you supply nutrients to the soil that keeps the plants healthy it in turn provides the right nutrition for their livestock.
Providing parasite protection is one area where producers can take advantage of natural remedies.
“We are playing around with apple cider vinegar as a dewormer and rumen health tonic,” Koehn said.
Koehn said that it can increase the gain on their cattle and aid in feed efficiency. He buys it in bulk and pours it in a trough and mixes with water fed at the rate of 3 oz./head/day.
“It takes them a few days to get used to it but will come running once they’ve acquired a taste,” Koehn said.
Koehn also recommended producers who are interested in starting a grass-fed herd to select the right genetics that will perform well on grass only.
“Cattle that are geared to be fed in a feedlot on grains take a lot longer to mature and finish in a grass-based system,” said Koehn. “They aren’t able to utilize grass to the fullest extent.”
Prier Farms Grassfed Beef
Ken Prier owns Prier Farms Grassfed Beef, a certified USDA 100 percent grass-fed operation near Eagle Rock, Mo.
Prier said that starting with healthy cattle is critical. He chooses to have a closed herd, with the exception of bringing in young virgin bulls for breeding.
“The only thing we bring in is young bulls,” Prier said. “They’ve never been serviced anywhere else and we don’t have to worry about them transmitting diseases.”
Though he limits the use of unnecessary vaccinations and other chemicals entering his herd he believes in the importance of vaccinating his cattle for blackleg and Brucellosis. He remembers hearing stories from the ‘40s and ‘50s when those diseases would wipe out the whole herd.
“The last thing in the world you would want is your place quarantined,” Prier said.
Prier credits clean water and his rigorous rotational grazing practice as main factors related to herd health.
“Pasture hay and good quality forage is extremely important to keeping cattle healthy and with vigor,” Prier said.